Sometimes Nano strikes me as a roller coaster. You know, all the big ones out at Six Flags since that seems to be the only thing that Six Flags can do any more, even tearing apart their good rides to make way for more crummy roller coasters that are way too far off the ground for a short person who is very good at giving herself nightmares about falling off heights to tolerate. Seriously, you had to ruin the Gasp?
But I digress, and lose track of my original metaphor. So in the course of the month, I’ve had ups. I’ve had downs. I’ve had flatlines when the chains under the car have to drag me up the next hill (I think I’m in the middle of one right now.) But the entire time the roller coaster is running, I’m off the ground and higher than all the people still on the ground.
Take a look at your wordcount, right now. For some of you, it’s more than you ever thought you could write in a month. For some, it’s probably more than you thought you could ever write in a lifetime. 1,000 words, 10,000 words, they all seem like really big amounts until you’ve actually written them, and then you’re surprised at the fact that you, yes you, could write so much.
Believe it or not, when I did Nano for my first year (way back in 2004), the thought of writing 50,000 was simply beyond my comprehension. The longest piece I had ever written (and finished) was around 20,000 words and took me almost an entire school year. To write over a thousand words every single day seemed impossible. That year, I barely squeaked by with 50,000 words at 7:30 on November 30th, and I had to be manually verified because the wordcounter kept claiming I was short and I had no idea why or how. (It turns out, since I write in Notepad, that the wordcounter was unable to distinguish a line break as a break between words– so the end of every paragraph was counted as the same word as the beginning of the next paragraph, which probably shorted me by a few thousand.) It was ugly and full of fandom references. It wasn’t complete; I hadn’t even gotten to the actual main plot yet. But I’d written more than I’d ever written in my life. And if you’d told me that year that I would be writing as much as I have this year, I would have thought you were lying to me.
But see, the thing is, Nano has a funny way of surprising you. And if you keep at it every day, you *will* win and you *will* get better, both in terms of quantity and quality. Writing isn’t so much an art as it is a habit. And if you do Nano, and do it again next year, or try one of the many off-season Nanos, you’re going to get better if you commit to it. You’re going to pick up the tricks and observations that give you the words, and not necessarily even padding. You’re going to find the things that keep you writing every day, even when you have an off day, and you learn how much time you need to write to a certain word count. You’re going to find the methods that work best for you: outline vs. no outline, description or dialogue, what you write best and what you can’t write, when and where you get the most done, etc. (Personally, this year has been a lesson to me to make sure I have SOME idea of where I’m going with a plot. Also, straight comedy is HARD.) And eventually, you’ll be picking up methods and ideas that will help you with the parts you aren’t good at. And all of this will come from the mere practice of writing 1,667 words a day.
So, back to your wordcount. Even if it’s not where you want to be, there is still plenty of time to make the goal. People have written the entire 50k in a week, and that’s ordinary people with jobs and children and other committments. Heck, some people have done it in a single day (although I don’t recommend waiting that long to get your writing on!) Every year I see stories of people who have miraculously pulled out 10k, 20k, and even 35k in a single day in the final few days. However far you are, it is not too late and it is not too far if you commit to it and don’t give up.
If you find yourself out of plot or ideas, or just need some love and encouragement, please join us. There are forums, a chatroom, and still more writeins going on through the end of the month for people to get together and feel miserable together and spark off scenes and strings of words. It’s never too late to commisserate! Once you’ve done that, follow the next steps for instant* novelling success!
1. Turn off internet.
2. Lock self in room.
3. Place butt in chair.
4. Place hands on keyboard.
5. Start pressing keys.
It really is that simple, I promise.
*Insantaneous success not guaranteed. But I promise it’ll be faster.